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February 14 2014

Examining the Post-Colonial Evolution of Francophone and Anglophone Africa

Screen capture of animated slideshow on the legacy of French and English colonization in Africa via Le Monde

Screen capture of animated slideshow on the legacy of French and English colonization in Africa -Blue countries are French-speaking nations, red countries are English-speaking nations.  via Le Monde

The topic of the post-colonial evolution of francophone versus anglophone African states has always a fodder for intense debate. Cheidozié Dike, from Nigeria, brings a new perspective to the subject :     

While the French Loi Cadre system was mostly about integration, the British colonial system sought only exploitation. Creating an air of suspicion between the nations that make up present-day Anglophone Africa, fracturing connections before they were even made, all the better to rule.[.;] Francophone Africans do not feel the need to aspire to western culture, because the French culture was wedded with local customs such that it became an indivisible whole

However, the predominant analysis from francophone Africa is quite different. Ouréguéhi, from Benin, articulates why he thinks francophone Africa is lagging behind its anglophone counterpart financially [fr]:

Les pays anglophones ont été libérés de leur colon sur tous les plans. la France a toujours les regards dans les affaires des colonisés sans oublier la dictée qu'elle fait à ces pays. Quand tu veux voir celui que tu prétends aider évoluer, tu lui donne les conseils tout en lui laissant le choix de sa politique

English-speaking countries were freed from their colonizers at all levels. France still keeps an eye in the affairs of its former colonies, not to mention the fact that she still dictates (a few policies) of these countries. When you want to help someone evolve, you give him/her advice but you let them choose their own policy. 

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

February 10 2014

INFOGRAPHIC: Pursuit of Happiness in Africa

Happiness Value Index for the African Continent via Afrigraphique CC-NC-2.0

Happiness Value Index for the African Continent via Afrigraphique CC-NC-2.0

The Afrographique blog mapped the happiness index for the African continent. Topping the ranking are Angola and Mauritius who hold the same happiness index as Albania and Russia, respectively. In related news, the Pharell’ single “Happy” has been used by dancers around the world to celebrate the new year 2014. All the videos are compiled at the blog We are Happy from . Below are the videos from Antanannarivo, Madagascar:

and Cotonou, Benin:

Sponsored post

December 05 2013

Five Little-known Energy Resources in Africa

Electricity supply problems are once again news in several African countries with recurring power outages in Benin, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire and Madagascar, to name just a few of those most recently affected.

In Benin, a private Nigerian company supplies much of the country’s electricity.

A report on the Kongossa blog [fr] describes the current situation in Cameroon.:

Malgré des investissements réalisés ces dernières années par la firme américano-camerounaise AES-SONEL chargée de la production, du transport, de la distribution et de la commercialisation de l’énergie électrique, le problème est loin d’être résolu.[..] Si à Douala et Yaoundé, les coupures d’électricité durent en moyenne quatre à six heures, dans d’autres localités des pays, notamment dans les zones rurales, des témoignages concordants rapportent que les coupures d’électricité peuvent durer jusqu’à trois jours d’affilé

Despite investments made these past years by the American-Cameroonian firm AES-SONEL in charge of production, transportation, distribution and sale of electrical energy, the problem is far from being resolved. [...] Power cuts in Douala and Yaoundé last on average four to six hours while in other areas of the country, notably in rural zones, eyewitnesses consistently report that power cuts can last up to three days in a row.

In Côte d’Ivoire, outages are so frequent that they are listed on the Facebook page of an imaginary supervillain, Delestron [a play on words with the French term for outage], created by Ivoirian internet users.

Finally, in Madagascar, many communities are furious with the national electricity company Jirama, accused of frequent failures to meet requirements. For example, in the community of Ambohibao Iavoloha [fr]:

Par exemple, la coupure totale sans avertissement qui a eu lieu entre le 06 et 11 novembre dernier. A partir du 11 au 15 novembre, les habitants ont été confrontés au délestage et l’électricité ne revient que le lendemain vers 2h du matin. Tel est le cas de l’électricité mais la faible pression de l’eau de la Jirama fait aussi grogner les habitants.

For example, the complete loss of power which happened without warning from November 6th to the 11th. From November 11th to the 15th, inhabitants had to put up with controlled outages and electricity was only available around 2am the following day. That is the situation regarding electricity, but the low water pressure from Jirama also gives inhabitants something to grumble about.

Rural populations in sub-Saharan Africa are the worst off since only 8.4 percent have access to electricity. However, in light of the growth projected [for Africa], the needs of the continent are certainly going to increase. In 2007, annual energy consumption from primary sources was only 15.4 British thermal units (Btu) per person. By comparison, global energy consumption per person per year was 70.8 Btu while that of Americans was 337.1 Btu (almost 22 times that of the mean in Africa).

However, the African continent is not lacking in natural resources which could meet the energy requirements. Any problems are exacerbated by the global intensification of the race towards energy independence. Many countries are turning to the natural resources of the African continent to supply their energy.

PIDA Africa Electricity Transportation Map

Programs for production and transportation of electricity in Africa by 2040. Map by PIDA, used with their authorisation.

Here are five of the lesser known energy sources  on the African continent:

Heavy Oil of Madagascar

Although Madagascar oil remains relatively unknown internationally-speaking, it has been the object of much speculation. Despite the political crisis, interest in the oil of Madagascar [from overseas] has never lessened. Madagascar news website author Antsa explained [fr] Japan’s interest:

Une délégation japonaise a rencontré les responsables du ministère des Hydrocarbures, à la recherche d'information sur la situation actuelle du secteur des ressources pétrolières, ainsi que des lois et règlementations en vigueur. «Malgré la crise politique, les investisseurs sont restés et d'autres viennent encore pour l'exploration de pétrole. Même s'ils ne sont que dans la phase d'exploration, des avantages sont déjà acquis, à l'exemple de la création d'écoles, d'hôpitaux, l’amélioration et le renforcement de capacité, etc. De plus, le gouvernement ne paie rien, malgré le partage de production», a informé le DG des Hydrocarbures. Notons que trois compagnies pétrolières japonaises ICEP, Jog Meg et Mitsibushi, s'intéressent actuellement à Madagascar.

A Japanese delegation met with representatives from the Ministry of Hydrocarbons to find information on the current situation within the petroleum resources sector, as well as on the laws and rules in force. “Despite the political crisis, investors have stayed while others continue to come for the oil exploration. Even if they are only in the exploration phase, some advantages have already been seen, for example, schools and hospitals have been built or expanded, etc. What is more, the government pays nothing, despite sharing production”, stated the Hydrocarbons Manager. Three Japanese petroleum companies – ICEP, Jog Meg and Mitsibushi – are currently interested in Madagascar.

This growing interest from petroleum businesses could however bring risks. Holly Rakotondralambo, Madagascar partner of Friends of the Earth, explained [fr]:

Alors que les prix du pétrole et des métaux sont de plus en plus élevés en raison d’une demande mondiale croissante, les grandes entreprises et les investisseurs se ruent sur Madagascar. Dans un contexte politique très fragile, ce phénomène risque d'exacerber des conflits avec les populations et de dégrader, encore davantage, des écosystèmes très riches déjà en sursis.

Although oil and metal prices are higher because of growing global demand, big business and investors are rushing to Madagascar. In an extremely fragile political context, this phenomenon threatens to worsen conflicts with the people as well as further despoiling rich ecosystems already living on borrowed time.
natural ressources of Madagascar and the corporations vying for them. Graph posted by  Front Patriotique Malagasy on Facebook, with his permission

Natural resources of Madagascar and the companies competing to exploit them. Map published by the OMNIS agency on Facebook, used with permission


Tar Sands of the Republic of Congo

Tar sand deposits are an important source of synthetic crude oil. However, they are difficult to exploit and controversial because of their environmental impact. Italian company ENI is the first oil company to exploit the African tar sands. In the Congo, ENI collects tar sands 70km from Pointe-Noire, Congo-Brazzaville, in the Tchikatanga and Tchikatanga-Makola regions. Exploitation of these bitumen-rich sands can be risky, as explained here by the blog Vivement la désintox [fr] [I can’t wait for the detox]:

Exploiter les sables bitumineux est la façon la plus sale, la plus chère et la plus énergivore de produire du pétrole. Extraire 1 baril de pétrole bitumineux nécessite 5 barils d'eau et émet jusqu’à 5 fois plus de gaz à effet de serre que le pétrole conventionnel. L’extraction des sables bitumineux est également synonyme de déforestation et de pollution des eaux. En effet, afin de séparer le pétrole du sable, les compagnies injectent des solvants qui polluent massivement les sols et les rivières.

Exploiting tar sands is the dirtiest, most expensive, most energy-demanding way to produce oil. Extracting one barrel of tar oil takes five barrels of water and releases up to five times more greenhouse gases than normal oil. Extraction of tar sands is also synonymous with deforestation and water pollution. In order to separate the oil from the sand, the companies inject solvents which pollute massively the soil and rivers.

The Windmills of Cape Verde

The Cape Verde islands are the site of the largest windmill farm in Africa. The electricity production equipment on four of the islands could lead to the greatest supply of electricity from wind energy in the world (in proportion to the size of the country), as explained in the following video:

Juan Cole explained the country’s wind energy gamble:

The lack of electricity and its high price have been serious obstacles to economic development and job creation, and thus major reasons for mass emigration of the population. Whereas European wind power often depends on substantial subsidies, the project in Cape Verde is based on strong winds. Electricity generated from wind power is distinctly cheaper than the power sources used hitherto in the islands.

The Potential of Solar Energy in Benin

With energy consumption growing rapidly in Benin, (and estimated to grow by 11% in future years by the state Electrical Energy Company), lack of investment in the sector coupled with losses during distribution and transportation (of around 18-30%) are the main reasons of the current necessity for controlled outages. Leomick Sinsin, a blogger from Benin, described the potential advantages of investing in photovoltaic energy [fr] in his country:

Avec un rayonnement variant de 3 à 6 kWh par m² selon la position géographique, le principal atout d’une installation solaire en Afrique est sa capacité à fournir suffisamment de puissance pour répondre aux besoins quotidiens. D’autre part, l’avantage d’un système solaire est la décentralisation du système de production. Quand l’on connait la vétusté des infrastructures existantes, nul ne saurait contredire le bien fondé d’un système où le site de production juxtaposerait le point de consommation. Le bon exemple est la maison isolée avec des modules surplombant la toiture. [..] Le dernier argument et pas des moindres est le travail d’efficacité énergétique qu’ impose une installation solaire. Un système solaire est une énergie intermittente qui dépend de plusieurs paramètres comme la météo, la qualité de l’installation etc. De ce fait, la consommation implique un recours vers des appareils sobres et peu énergivores. Nous réduisons ainsi le niveau de consommation tout en préservant le même niveau d’utilité.

With power varying from 3 to 6 kWh/m2 depending on geographical position, the main advantage of solar installations in Africa is their capacity to provide enough power to answer daily needs. Another advantage of solar power systems is decentralisation of production. Knowing the antiquity of the existing infrastructure, no-one could be against starting a system where the production site is beside the point of use. A good example is a remote house with panels on the roof. [...] Last but not least, the work towards energy efficiency that a solar installation imposes. Solar power gives intermittent energy which depends on several parameters such as the weather, quality of the installation, etc. As a result, its usage implies a move towards energy-saving equipment. In this way the level of consumption can be reduced while keeping the same degree of usability.

Geothermic energy from the Rift Valley

Recently, several energy companies have stressed the importance of geothermic energy as both a response to the energy needs for countries within the Horn of Africa [Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia] and the Rift Valley as well as an integral part of the program for “green growth”. SciDev.Net reported that Djibouti could become a major player [fr] in geothermic energy:

Le potentiel d'énergie géothermique de la région du Lac Assal de ce pays, qui se trouve dans la vallée du Rift, est à l'étude [..] La production d'énergie sur le lac Assal pourrait commencer en 2018 pour un coût de US$ 240 millions, générant 40 à 60 mégawatts. La BAD recommande que les partenariats entre les secteurs public et privé développent ces projets d'énergie en raison de leurs coûts élevés.

The potential of geothermic energy in the Lake Assal region of this country in the Rift Valley is being studied [...] Energy production around Lake Assal could start in 2018 for a cost of 240 million US Dollars, generating 40 to 60 megawatts. The BAD recommend that public and private sector partnerships develop these energy projects due to their high cost.

G. Pourtier added that Ethiopia is also starting to explore thermal energy [fr]:

Située à 200 km au sud d'Addis-Abeba, la capitale éthiopienne, la nouvelle centrale produira d'abord 20 MW à partir de 2015, puis 500 MW en 2018 et enfin 1 GW quelques années plus tard [..]. La surface acquise par Reykjavik Geothermal en Éthiopie couvre 6500 km2, dont 200 km2 ont déjà été identifiés et où la température s'élève à 350°C.

Located 200 km south of Addis Abbaba, the Ethiopian capital, the new power station will start producing 20 MW from 2015, then 500 MW in 2018 and finally 1 GW several years later [...] The area acquired by Reykjavik Geothermal covers 6500 km2, of which 200 km2 have already been identified as having temperatures reaching 350°C.

December 04 2013

French Strategical Report to Counter China's Economic Influence in Africa

Top Francophone economists & diplomats (namely H El-Karoui from Morocco, T Thiam from Côte d'Ivoire,  L Zinsou from Benin, J-M Severino and H Vedrine from France) submitted a joint report [fr] that outlines the strategy that France should implement to remain competitive on the African Market in the near future. Joel Té-Léssia highlights 15 key points [fr] from the report, one of which is to do away with the “Zone Franc” policy and to allow the regional currency to fluctuate with respect to the Euros. Té-Léssia also underlines the fact that the report is clearly devised to counter  growing influence of China and other emerging nations in the Africa continent. Africa economic growth is projected at 5.2 % in 2014. 

 Six special economic zones setup by the PRC in four African countries on wikipedia CC-BY-2.0

Six special economic zones setup by the PRC in four African countries on wikipedia CC-BY-2.0

November 26 2013

Reasons for Power Outages in Benin

[All links lead to French text unless otherwise stated.]

Travailler à la bougie- Photo de l'auteur avec sa permission

Burning the midnight oil – Photo by the author with permission

Benin has again been experiencing power outages over several days.

Following a long silence, the director of energy production for the Benin Electric Energy Company (SBEE), Saturnin Yèdonou, denied all company responsibility for these latest power cuts on the national television channel.

According to Yèdonou, Nigeria, which provides some of Benin's electricity, is behind these cuts. Technical difficulties with their gas-fired power stations could be the cause

Selon le directeur, ces difficultés ont fait baisser la puissance d’énergie produite par le géant voisin de l’Est et dont dépend le Bénin. [..] Face à cette situation, le directeur Saturnin YEDONOU a invité les populations à comprendre que les désagréments qu’elles subissent sont une fois encore indépendants de la volonté de la SBEE.

According to the director, these difficulties have lowered the energy level produced by the giant neighbour to the East [Nigeria] on which Benin depends.[..] Faced with this situation, the director Saturnin Yèdonou asked people to understand that the disagreeable circumstances they are subjected to, are, once more, independent of the will of the SBEE.

Questions on the agreements with Nigeria 

If the energy policy is fragile this is mostly because the country depends to such a large extent on its giant neighbour. This according to the authorities responsible for the provision of energy to the people. The consequences of this dependency affect the economy and slow the activities of the Benin populace. TCN [en] lines from Nigeria and the VRA [en] from Ghana currently provide around 230 MW to Benin, which they have been selling to the country for tens of years.  

However, faced with the energy deficiency situation in Benin, questions could be asked about the limits of the economic relationship between Benin and Nigeria. The authorities are therefore urged to enlighten us as to the contents of this agreement. Rodrigue Tokpodounsi from Cotonou wrote the following on Jolome News: 

A bien y voir, la sortie tardive Saturnin Yèdonou n'apporte rien de concret. Car ce qui importe pour les Béninois, c'est de savoir jusqu'à quand va durer leur misère et quelles sont les dispositions que prennent les autorités pour les en épargner à l'avenir.

The belated reply from Saturnin Yèdonou brings nothing concrete. What matters to the people of Benin, is knowing how long their troubles are going to last and which measures the authorities are going to take to spare them in future.

The paradox

Let us find out a little more about the situation in Nigeria, on which Benin depends. More than 60% of Nigerians, that is around 100 million people, no longer have access to electricity and half of Nigerians living in rural areas have none.  

However, an entire country (Benin), depends on the Eastern giant for its energy needs even though Nigeria has obvious difficulty meeting the needs of its own population. This situation has continued for decades.

To refresh our memories, in Nigeria, the largest oil producer in Africa, this situation is explained by the fact that the infrastructure does not allow conveyance of electricity to the entire territory.

Nearly two thirds of the population live below the poverty threshold and those who have access to the electricity network are subject to daily power outages.

In the end, it seems that the energy situation in Benin is far from being sorted out.

November 19 2013

Massive Railway Project between Niamey and Cotonou Underway

A 1,500 km-long railway project between Niamey, the capital city of Niger and Cotonou, the capital city of Benin has been green lighted by the authorities of the two countries and construction will begin on March 2014 [fr].  Francois Ndiaye in Niamey unpacks the set up of the financial agreement [fr] that includes multiple stakeholders and will be overseen by the investment group Bolloré [fr]. Benoît ILLASSA in Cotonou wonders why private investing groups from either Niger or Cotonou were not selected to pilot such projects. The projected budget  is set at 100 billions CFA (about 2 billions USD).  The railway should extend in the future to three other capital cities of the west african region : Abidjan, Ouagadougou and Lomé.  

November 08 2013

Newfound Oil Met With Hope, Concern in Benin

The Benin government announced the discovery of a source of oil in the Sèmè-Podji region on October 24. The announcement was made by the Minister for Energy and Oil Exploration, Barthelemy Kassa [fr]:

Quelques 87 millions de barils du pétrole sont disponibles sur le bloc 1 du champ pétrolifère de Sèmè-Podji et feront l'objet d'une exploitation sur quatorze ans, à raison de 7500 barils par jour  à compter de la date d'exploitation

Some 87 million barrels of oil are available from block 1 of the Sèmè-Podji oil field and will be subject to exploitation over 14 years, thanks to the 7,500 barrels per day expected from the start date of the exploitation.
Le Ministre Barthelemy Kassa via nouvelles mutations (avec leur permission)

Minister Barthelemy Kass via ‘nouvelles mutations’ website. Image used with permission.

It is believed discussions will take place with Nigerian company South Atlantic Petroleum (Sapetro) for a production sharing contract.

However, some in Benin remain skeptical and are asking many questions about the announcement. Journalist Marcel Zouménou raised certain inconsistencies on the Nouvelle Tribune [fr] website:

Selon des sources proches du dossier, la quantité trouvée n’est pas pour autant importante, et n’est qu’un résidu de ce que le Bénin a exploité dans les années 70 et 80, par Saga Petroleum.

Les 12.000 milliards de recettes annoncées, reviennent-ils au Bénin uniquement ? Combien gagne Sapetro dans cette opération.

According to sources close to the project, the quantities found are not all that great, being only a residue of what Benin, via Saga Petroleum, exploited during the 1970s and 1980s. 

Will the 12 billion in revenue announced be solely for Benin? How much will Sapetro earn from this operation ?

Even certain members of parliament in Benin are far from trusting of the country's current president in relation to management of this new source of oil. Candide Azannai is one such member. According to an article posted on his Facebook page [fr], he learned that President Boni Yayi allegedly could be preparing to use a portion of the oil exploitation revenues to buy a plane so he is able to rapidly cover all counties of Benin to win over locals for his potential candidacy in the next presidential elections.

For the president then, enlightened management is necessary so that the Benin people can finally be happy about this oil which has always existed under the soil.

Another member of parliament, Lazare Sehoueto, stated that the information broadcast was a matter of propaganda. He too explained this on his Facebook page [fr]:

Pour que chacun se fasse une idée juste, notons que le Nigeria produit 2,5 millions de pétrole par Jour soit 25 millions de barils en dix jours. L’exploitation de nos 20 millions de baril de pétrole résiduel pourra être effectif vers Septembre 2014. Pour combien de jours ? Qu’est ce qui nous restera quand l’inconnue société qui bavarde actuellement aura retiré ses “billes”, il restera quoi à mon pays ?

Mais tout espoir n’est pas perdu. Sur le Bloc 4, un consortium travaille actuellement. Il s’agit d’un consortium composé de sociétés sérieuses (Shell, Petrobras du Brésil et d’une société “béninoise” créée par un Portugais). Il y a de bons espoirs que ce consortium pourra forer jusqu’à 2000 à 3000 m en profondeur dans la mer afin de nous confirmer si nous cernons effectivement la nappe de pétrole. Nous avons du pétrole comme nous avons de l’eau. Mais il faut que les forages “tombent” sur la nappe.

Just so that everyone has the right idea, let us note that Nigeria produces 2.5 million [barrels] of oil per day, that is 25 million barrels in ten days. The exploitation of our 20 million barrels of residual oil could start around September 2014. For how many days? What will be left to us when the unknown company who is talking to us right now has finished their dealings? What will be left for my country?But all hope is not lost. A consortium is currently working on Block 4. The consortium is made up of legitimate companies (Shell, Petrobas from Brazil and a ‘Benin’ company created by the Portuguese). There are great hopes that this consortium could drill up to 2,000 or 3,000 metres deep under the sea to confirm whether we have properly defined the oil layer. We have oil just like we have water. But the drilling must strike the layer.

In summary, for the moment there is still nothing new in King Behanzin’s country (a.k.a. Benin). It is undoubtedly still too early to be pleased about the potential of these new energy resources.

November 06 2013

The FIRE Awards Winners for Internet Development in Africa

The FIRE programme awards, an initiative of AFRINIC, acknowledge the actors from the African region who strive to provide solutions to internet development for the African Continent. The 2013 FIRE Awards Winners are : 

Below is the presentation of the MEWC initiative :

August 11 2013

‘Red Wednesday’ Protests to Benin President: ‘Don't Touch My Constitution!’

Since July 17, 2013, every Wednesday many Beninese dress in red and gather together to say no to the revision of the constitution by the President of the Republic Boni Yayi. This revision would permit Boni Yayi to stand in the next presidential elections.

Why Red Wednesday? Dieu-Donné Hounwanou, a militant of this new movement, explains [fr]:

Cette couleur évoque le courage. Cette révision constitutionnelle par le Président Boni Yayi est opportuniste et n'inclut en aucun cas les intérêts du peuple. Par cette mobilisation, nous refusons à grand jamais la révision. Le peuple a faim et en a marre du gouvernement incapable. Mercredi rouge, tout rouge. Touche pas à ma constitution !

This color evokes courage. This constitutional revisions by President Boni Yayi is opportunistic and doesn't include under any circumstance the interests of the people. By mobilizing, we staunchly refuse this revision. The people are hungry and are tired of an incapable government. Red Wednesday, all red. Don't touch my constitution!

Les partisans du Mercredi rouge-photo:page facebook mercredi rouge

Red Wednesday supporters- photo via the facebook page Red Wednesday [fr] with their permission

The Red Wednesday [fr] movement, launched by the organization [fr] “Alternative citizen” in effect seeks to assemble all Beninese disappointed with the current government since it's inception in 2006. But also, and above all, it seeks to end the project of revising the Beninese constitution, which according to the members of the movement, would permit the president to stand in the 2016 elections and to create a new republic.

The revision of the Beninese constitution submitted in April 2013 calls for, among other things, the creation of a Court of Accounts, the initiation of laws by the people, the institutionalization of the National Autonomous Electoral Commission (CENA) or still the limitations of economic crimes.  The revised constitution would also allow the president to run one more time for president.

Born on Facebook [fr], the movement has begun to amplify on the streets of the country. T-shirt, pants, scarf, red caps, all the means are good to sustain the movement.

According to the previous Communication Minister Gaston Zossou [fr], this movement is not liked by the Boni Yayi administration as Zossou says on his Facebook account that his home was encircled by police officers on August 1, 2013, the country's independence day, to keep him from going to join the Red Wednesday protesters.

Les militaires près de la maison de Gaston Zossou. Photo: Page Facebook mercredi rouge

Soldiers near the home of Gaston Zossou. Photo: Red Wednesday Facebook page with their permission.

However, this movement is far from creating unanimity.

On one side, some question the good faith of the principle actors of the movement, such as Joseph Djogbenou, suspected of manipulating the cause with the support of businessman Patrice Talon, who is the the attorney in the case of the attempted poisoning of the head of state [fr].

And equally Gaston Zossou who blogger Alberic Gandonou qualified as the “transgressor that deceives the youth on the Internet.”

According to Gandonou, the intentions of Zossou [fr] are far from uninteresting:

En mal de publicité, Gaston Zossou dont les béninois de bonne foi se souviennent encore de la gestion désastreuse qu'il a faite des secteurs GSM et du dossier TITAN pendant qu'il était ministre de la communication, s'active sur les réseaux sociaux notamment Facebook où il anime une opposition intellectuelle fondée sur sa nostalgie des affaires de l'Etat.

Seeking publicity, Gaston Zossou, where the Beninese still recall in good faith his disastrous management of the GSM sectors and of the TITAN dossier when he was Communication Minister, is active on social networks notably Facebook where he leads an intellectual opposition based on his nostalgia for affairs of State.

He continues by saying that:

Les forces de l'ordre ont raison de veiller au grain pour empêcher que ce genre de personnage n'entraîne la jeunesse dans une aventure scabreuse.

The police are right to keep a close watch on this to avoid that this kind of character doesn't lead the youth into a scandalous adventure.

Revelations that certainly have already incited defections, such as that of Andoche Amégnissè, a great activist known on social media for his engagement among the Red Wednesday activists.

Secondly, the supporters of President Boni Yayi have imitated the movement and initiated the “White Friday” movement [fr]. The Minister of the Interior Benoît Dégla has declared [fr] that the “causes that defend the initiators of the Red Wednesday are not founded” and has qualified the movement as poison.

Le mouvement qui mène la fronde est manipulé

The movement that leads the revolt is manipulated.

On social media, the supporters of Red Wednesday have decided to to dedicate a blog to Red Wednesday [fr]. The key words #mercredirouge and #patriotes229 also compile the advice and opinions of the participants in the movement:

#BENIN The President prohibits wearing RED considering it part of the citizen movement of #MERCREDITROUGE# but he himself was wearing a Red tie. #team 229

#Mercredirouge : the governments asks GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) operators to intercept messages

#Bénin: A second tame “red wednesday” - [fr] #MercrediRouge [fr]

Shit the small car that I drive is red, these guys are going to put me in jail #mercredirouge [fr]

July 16 2013

Benin's President Opens Door to Third Term

[All links forward to French-language web pages.]

Much ink continues to be spilt over the question of revisions to the West African country of Benin's constitution.

The country's President Yayi Boni has proposed an amendment to the constitution that would twist the law which puts a ban on presidential third terms to allow him to run one more time in the next presidential elections. Boni already has won two presidential elections in 2006 and 2011. In the past, the president of the republic has made his views on the subject very clear on several occasions, stating that he will not be standing for election in 2016.

Boni submitted a draft proposal of the decree to the National Assembly on June 6, 2013 and wanted a vote on it four days later, leaving only four days for members of the parliament to review the proposal.

A number of political players and public opinion accuse Boni of hurrying the amendment for his own political gain. Observers note that Boni got rid of a potential nuisance in Robert Dossou, who is former president of the Constitutional Court and who vehemently opposed any changes to the constitution.

In principle, major changes in the constitution are still quite unlikely because the full draft text presented to the National Assembly clearly states that:

Les options fondamentales suivantes énoncées à la Conférence Nationale des forces vives de la Nation de février 1990 et considérées comme socles de notre Constitution seront préservées. Il s’agit de : – l’Etat de droit , – la démocratie libérale; – la forme républicaine de l’Etat; – le multipartisme intégral; – la nature présidentielle du régime; – la limitation du mandat du Président de la République; – l’âge des candidats à l’élection du Président de la République.

The following options, as laid down in the National Conference of Active Forces of the Nation in February 1990, and considered to constitute the very core of our Constitution, will be retained. They are: – a State of Law – a liberal democracy; – A State based on republican principles; – a full multiparty system; – a presidential regime; – a time-limited Presidential mandate; – the age of candidates on election of the President of the Republic.

L'emblème du Bénin via wikipédia CC-BY-3.0

The crest of Benin courtesy of Wikipedia CC-BY-3.0

Furthermore, in an attempt to reassure the people of Benin and to guarantee a large consensus, the president of the National Assembly called for a consultation process to be organised on the content of the draft revisions to the constitution, stating that:

ce projet de loi portant sur la relecture de la loi fondamentale du Bénin respecte les engagements prises par la nation béninoise à la Conférence des Forces vives de la nation de février 1990, en ce qui concerne le mandat présidentiel de cinq ans renouvelable une fois, la limite d'âge de 40 ans au moins et 70 ans au plus pour tout candidat à l'élection présidentielle et enfin le type présidentiel du régime politique.   Outre ces acquis démocratiques, souligne le président du Parlement du Bénin, ce projet de loi portant révision de la Constitution béninoise du 11 décembre 1990, comporte trois principales innovations répondant parfaitement aux préoccupations de la classe politique béninoise, notamment la création et la constitutionnalisation de la Cour des comptes, la constitutionnalisation de la Commission électorale nationale autonome et enfin l'imprescriptibilité des crimes économiques dans le cadre de la moralisation de la vie publique.

This draft legislation, relating to the review of Benin's fundamental legislation, honours the commitments undertaken by the nation of Benin at the National Conference on Active Forces of the Nation in February 1990 in terms of the five-year presidential mandate, renewable only once, with a lower age limit of 40 and the upper age limit of 70 for all presidential candidates and, lastly, the nature of the presidential political regime. Aside from these democratic gains, the Benin's Parliamentary President has stressed that this draft legislation, seeking to revise Benin's 11 December 1990 Constitution, also brings with it three main innovations which respond perfectly to the preoccupations of Benin's political classes, most notably the creation and constitutionalisation of the Auditor's court, the constitutionalisation of the national, independent Electoral Commission and, finally, immunity from accountability for economic crimes in public office.

Ministers are very supportive of the president as operation “hands on my constitution”, referring to the slogan “hands off my constitution” used by opponents of the revisions, was launched on June 20, 2013 by government minister Beniot Degla with the aim of supporting the head of state's reforms. However, all of this has fallen well short of reassuring public opinion. On his blog, Benoit Illassa accuses the president of wanting to cripple Benin's democracy:

Selon les propos d'Abdourhamane Touré,journaliste, qu'il rapporte,Un autre coup est en préparation afin qu’il se donne les moyens de continuer au-delà de 2016 l’exercice du pouvoir d’Etat. On a vu cela venir. Le premier à l’avoir flairé, c’est Me Robert Dossou, ancien président de la Cour constitutionnelle. Jugé pendant toute sa présidence d’être aux ordres de Yayi Boni, il a refusé de donner carte blanche à une révision opportuniste de la constitution du 11 décembre 1990. Sans doute pour se venger et se mettre en position de force pour aller jusqu’au bout de ses ambitions, le président de la République ne l’a pas reconduit lors de la désignation des membres du gouvernement pour siéger à la 5ème mandature de la Cour constitutionnelle.

According to journalist Abdourhamane Touré, another coup is being prepared in order to allow him to retain State power beyond 2016. We saw that coming. The first person to suspect something was lawyer Robert Dossou, former president of the Constitutional court. Believed throughout his presidency to be under the control of Yayi Boni, he refused to give carte blanche to an opportunistic revision of the 11 December, 1990 constitution. By way undoubtedly of retaliation and to manoevre himself into a stronger position to fulfill his ambitions, the president of the republic did not renew his mandate following nomination by members of the government to chair a fifth session of the constitutional court.

The blogger also invites the president to refrain from touching so much as a single comma of the constitution. He thinks “the danger does not lie in modifying article 42 of our Constitution, but in the deft alterations with will pave the way for a new republic. And the journalist is not alone in his condemnation of this revision, politician Janvier Yahouedehou has also said no, and with reason:

Le contexte régional ne s’y prête pas. Modifier la Constitution de son pays au cours du deuxième et dernier mandat est la nouvelle trouvaille de certains chefs d’Etat africains pour s’éterniser au pouvoir. La stratégie est simple et reste la même : • Dans un premier temps, annoncer au peuple son engagement ferme à ne  pas briguer un autre mandat pour endormir les esprits ; • Dans un deuxième temps, utiliser des arguments comme la modernisation et la création de nouvelles institutions afin d’honorer des obligations vis-à-vis de partenaires financiers, etc. comme prétextes pour modifier la loi  fondamentale avec comme conséquence une nouvelle République, permettant de facto au chef de l’Etat sortant de se repositionner pour d’autres nouveaux mandats. Les exemples font aujourd’hui légion. 3- Le contexte national ne s’y prête pas. Il y a des besoins plus urgents: – En 2006 vous aviez promis aux béninois l’autonomie énergétique, où en sommes-nous 7 ans après au regard des graves situations de délestage ? – En 2006, vous aviez promis aux béninois, de transformer notre pays en un village numérique, où en sommes-nous sachant que le Bénin est classé avant-dernier en termes de qualité de l’internet par socialnetlink ? ….

The regional context does not lend itself to this. Modification of a country's constitution in the middle of a second and final mandate is the latest discovery by those African heads of state wanting to remain in permanent power. The strategy is simple and always the same: Initially, in order to quell any concerns, make a public announcement firmly stating a commitment to not seek a future mandate; Then, by way of pretext for modifying a fundamental law, use arguments such as modernisation and the creation of new institutions that will make it possible to honour obligations to financial partners, etc. There are now innumerable examples. 3 – the current situation within the country does not lend itself to this. There are more pressing concerns: – In 2006 you promised energy autonomy to the people of Benin, but seven years on, where are we on the question of power cuts? – In 2006 you promised the people of Benin that the entire country would go digital, where are we on that, bearing in mind that Benin is classified by socialnetlink as second last in terms of the quality of it's Internet provision? …

For others in opposition such as Charles Toko, an influential writer and Robert Dossou, former president of the constitutional court, a revision cannot be allowed. Dossou was removed from his position within the court because he decided: “[...] these are not things that can be subject to referendum, namely the fundamental options of the February 1990 National Conference: [...] the five-year presidential term, renewable only once…” and has thus sought to disrupt the despicable designs of the presidential circle.

Benin's Internet users are also voicing their refusal to accept revisions to the constitution and discussion is ongoing, especially on Twitter:

@lionelchobli: Tout le monde est en Révision au #Benin. Les enfants pour les examens et les papas pour la Constitution !

@lionelchobli: Everyone is being tested in #Benin. Children for exams, dads for the Constitution!

@domingo_inc: Stop! yayi boni pas de revision de constitution au Benin”

@domingo_inc: Stop it Yayi Boni no revision to the Benin constitution”

@Nangnin: Qu'est-ce j'apprends? Que le PR du Bénin veut changer la constitution pour se maintenir? J'espère que le bon sens l'en découragera #civ2010 ”

@Nangnin: What do I hear? That the president of Benin wants to change the constitution to keep power? I hope common sense will deter him #civ2010 ”

@Nangnin: @wirr2011 tu poses la bonne question: est-il opportun, nécessaire de modifier la constitution? #benin@macmady@freeci3

@Nangnin: @wirr2011 good question: Is it timely or even necessary to change the constitution? #benin@macmady@freeci3

July 06 2013

Operation Djakpata divides Opinion in Benin

[All links are to French sources.]

Operation Djakpata, launched in April 2013 by the Benin Ministry of the Interior, Public Security and Religion, intends to track all criminals engaged in illegal activities which could disturb the Benin people. However, for the past few days, public opinion of this project has been extremely divided.

Safety in Benin by Felix Krohn on Flickr CC-BY-NC

Safety in Benin by Felix Krohn on Flickr CC-BY-NC

On his blog, Illassa Benoit quoted Charles Toko, a business owner from Benin:

Opération Djakpata. [Djakpata serait] un serpent qui avale des gens. Un Boa ? Hum…très peu au Sud Bénin, sinon inexistant. Un Anaconda ? Ça n’existe pas en Afrique. Une vipère ? Ça n’avale pas un homme. Or, à en croire certaines langues au sud du Bénin, Djakpata est un serpent qui avale des hommes. Ce qui est faux. Donc l’opération en elle-même est fausse au départ. Les développements le confirment.
Au départ, une manipulation. On a sorti des engins qui ne sont pas destinés au Bénin. Au fait, ce sont des engins que le Bénin loue à l’ONU. Mais depuis 2006, le mensonge est considéré par le gouvernement comme une communication par excellence. Alors, on s’y adonne. On nous montre des mini chars, des 4X4 de patrouille, des canons, …. Comme d’habitude, c’est pour mentir.

Operation Djakpata. [Djakpata could be] a snake who swallows people. A Boa? Hmm…very rare in South Benin, possibly non-existent. An Anaconda? It doesn’t live in Africa. A Viper? That can’t swallow a human. Nevertheless, if you believe some people from South Benin, Djakpata is a man-swallowing snake. This is not true. Therefore the operation itself is flawed from the start. Developments confirm it.
From the start, manipulation. Devices have been used which are not destined for Benin. In fact, these are devices that Benin lent to the UN. However, since 2006, the government has believed that lying is an excellent form of communication. So, they stick to it. They show us mini tanks, 4×4 patrol vehicles, cannons… As usual, in the name of lying.

Summary of Events

President Boni Yayi’s government recently launched an operation named ‘djakpata’. On website Adjinakou, Gathum Gbaguidi summed up the context of this security operation:

” Djakpata 2013 ” c'est le nom de l'opération lancée lundi dernier par le ministre de l'intérieur, de la sécurité publique et des cultes, Benoît Dègla, sur l'esplanade du stade de l'Amitié de Cotonou. Djakpata, qui est le nom donné à la vipère en langue fon, a été attribué à l'opération qui vise à aller à l'assaut des malfrats de tout acabit dont les jours sont désormais comptés, à moins qu'ils changent de métier. Cette opération conjointe de toutes les forces de sécurité et de défense a mobilisé des milliers d'agents des forces de sécurité et de défense, des véhicules légers de patrouille, des véhicules spécifiques de maintien d'ordre et des blindés légers. Ainsi donc, pendant trois mois, cette grosse artillerie va mener une lutte sans merci contre l'insécurité sous toutes ses formes dans toutes les localités du pays en commençant par Cotonou et ses environs.

“Djakpata 2013” is the name of the operation launched last Monday by the Minister of the Interior, Public Security and Religion, Benoit Degla, on the stands of Cotonou’s Friendship Stadium. Djakpata, which is the word for viper in the Fon language, was the name given the operation which aims to go after all kinds of crooks whose days are already numbered, so at the very least they change the way they make a living. This operation undertaken by security and defence forces together has mobilised thousands of agents from the security and defence forces, patrol cars, cars for maintaining order and armoured cars. So, for three months, this heavy artillery is going to lead a merciless fight against a lack of safety in all forms and localities in the country starting with Cotonou and surrounding area.

On his blog, François Django covered the objectives of the operation:

Sur une patrouille mixte des forces de l'ordres,toute l'armée béninoise se donne la main pour lutter contre l'incivisme et l'insécurité au Bénin. Désormais la nuit appartient à l'armée béninoise. Ne circule plus qui veut mais qui possède des preuves évidentes pour se défendre.

Un processus salué par la population béninoise, car vivre dans la sécurité viens la décharger des gouffres de la misère.

Le souhait est que cette opération dure dans le temps et s'élargisse à toute les autres villes. Et que la paix soit toujours l'ami du Bénin, exemple de démocratie dans la sous région et dans le monde entier.

The entire Benin army is helping to fight anti-social conduct and lack of safety in Benin by a patrol consisting of various law and order forces. From now on the night belongs to the Benin army. No-one who wants can go out any more, only those who have the right evidence to defend themselves.The process has been welcomed by the people of Benin, because living in safety relieves the depths of poverty.

The hope is that this operation will endure and spread to all the other towns. And that peace will always be the friend of Benin, example of democracy in the sub-region and worldwide.

Here is a video of the announcement of the operation by the ministry.

Benin: Benoit Degla launching Operation Djakpata by actubenin

On the social networks, the people of Benin are far from unanimously approving of this operation.

On Twitter, internet users joked:

@shimkmb: J'ai reve que les policiers de Djakpata m'embarquaient

 @shimkmb: I dreamt that the Djakpata police took me in with them

“@Arlus_BDS: @jessebonheur:  ne m'envoi plus jamais d'invitation de path , tu veux Djakpata chez toi ou quoi ?”

“@Arlus_BDS: @jessebonheur: don’t ever send me any more Path invitations, do you want Djakpata at your house or what?”

“@Jules_Roland: “Opération Djakpata” tourne au fiasco ! C'est triste mais c'est à mourir de rire… #Bénin

“@Jules_Roland : “Opération Djakpata” is becoming a fiasco! It’s sad but makes you die laughing…#Benin

@jcommejasmine: Plus rien ne va ds ce pays… Ca nous parle d'”Opération Djakpata”, mais ca se fait braquer aussi! On est ou la?

@jcommejasmine: Nothing works in ths country any more… They talk of “Operation Djakpata”, but that is collapsing too! What’s that about?

@LaTeam_229: Les USA ont Les Experts Manhattan, Les Experts Miami nous #AuBénin on a #DJAKPATA

@LaTeam_229: The US have the Manhattan Experts, the Miami Experts #AuBénin {in Benin] we have #DJAKPATA

@EAHOUNOU: Ou on est t-on avec l'Opération #DJAKPATA :Braquage hier vers #Missèbo à #Cotonou en plein jour… Qd la Police pense politique … #le229

“@EAHOUNOU: Where are we with Operation #DJAKPATA :Hold up in #Missèbo, #Cotonou in broad daylight… When the police think politics first … #le229

“@CDjidjoho: #AuBenin quand djakpata te vois la nuit il te frappe d'abord !!! Avant de te demander des explication

“@CDjidjoho: #AuBenin [in Benin] when djakpata sees you at night they strike you first!!! Before asking you for explanations

Despite the important awareness campaign around Operation Djakpata, the overall efficiency of the program seems to have brought about mixed results so far.

June 03 2013

What are Citizens’ Main Concerns in Benin ?

Tite Yokossi unpacks a poll by the Zinsou Foundation that asked the citizens of Benin what are their main concerns today [fr]. The first concern listed was the low purchasing power of public servants. The other main concerns are access to education, access to clean water, health care and electricity, civil protection and aid for farmers.

March 09 2013

Journalist in Benin sentenced to 3 months in prison

Jolome News notes that the International Federation of Journalists has denounced the sentencing of Ms. Berthe Cakpossa to three months in prison and a fine of 500.000 francs CFA (the equivalent of $1,000 US) for insulting Boni Yayi, the Head of State. Ms. Cakpossa is the director of a private television chain, Channel 3. The channel broadcast Mr. Lionel Agbo's press conference, who was a former technical advisor to the Head of State. He has made accusations relating to those close to the president. The blog notes that [fr]:

In a democracy, it is not the role of the Press to censor the comments of political players.

December 12 2012

University in Benin Changes its Name after Equatoguinean Dictator

You can now call him Doctor Teodoro Obiang  Nguema Mbasogo.

MyGab.Tv reports that [fr] the Univesité internationale du Bénin UPIB is now called Teodoro Obiang  Nguema Mbasogo University after the Equatoguinean dictator. Teodoro Obiang  Nguema Mbasogo has been the benefactor of many schools in Benin [fr] and has received a doctorate degree Honoris Causa from the university at the inauguration ceremony.

November 08 2012

Afripedia: Wikipedia with Offline Access for Francophone Africa

Logo du projet Afripedia

Logo of the Afripedia project, a project to provide offline access to wikimedia projects for Francophone Africa;  CC license-3.0


October 23 2012

Benin: Organizing Volunteer Holidays to Share Specific Expertise

Volunteer holidays Benin

Round table on volunteer holidays in Benin by Youphil with permission

Youphil writes [fr] about a project driven by Espace Volontariats du Bénin and supported by France Volontaires that promotes volunteer holidays in Porto Novo and Sô-Ava. The project will help experts share their knowledge in fields such as accounting, communication, ICT & project management with local NGOs.

September 04 2012

Civil Service under Pressure in Francophone Africa

Civil servants in Francophone Africa are coming under increasing pressure to improve efficiency and to do more with less. In February 2001, the Charter for the Public Service in Africa (PDF) was adopted during the Third Pan-African Conference of Public Service Ministers. Forty years after independence, the Windhoek Declaration revealed the overdue recognition of the crucial impact of the public administration on growth and redistribution of wealth in Africa. The structural adjustment programmes of the 1980's led to a reduction in the number of civil servants in African public administration, which has led to the current strained situation for students still vying to serve in public offices.

Civil service training objectives

Listed below are just a few of the objectives of their mission (PDF):

  • To preserve the peace and stability of the state. The peaceful resolution of ethnic or border conflicts by qualified negotiators, trained in the art of diplomacy and dialogue.
  • To manage public finances. Civil service experts in public finances and tax legislation enable programmes for economic relaunch, debt-clearing and modernisation of production apparatus for economies still marginalised by world trade.
  • To assure essential social services. Future managers of the nation must go to a National School of Administration (ENA) to learn to develop plans for social protection or education services, difficult to put in place in most countries in Francophone Africa.
  • To guarantee the neutrality and integrity of the state apparatus. In short, civil servants at an ENA will deepen their knowledge of ethics and public service during debates on state corruption, cornerstone of citizens confidence in governing bodies.

Conference on Culture, Gender and Society at Benin ENA, 2007. Photo from Wikipedia (Creative Commons)

Where are the National Schools of Administration (abbreviated as ENA in French) in Francophone Africa? Unlike the Anglophone system, the training of civil servants in Francophone Africa is the state's responsibility, following the model of the former colonial power France. Some schools, such as the ENAs of Benin, Cameroon, Mali, Mauritania and Togo, the Gabon Institute of Economics and Finance and the National School of Administration and Judiciary of Madagascar, are members of the dynamic International Association of Schools and Institutes of Administration (IASIA).  The founding body of this association is the International Institute of Administrative Sciences (IIAS). Ten other schools, including those of Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire and Niger appear on the website of African Civil Services Observatory (OFPA), which states its aim as “sharing of experiences restructuring the Africa civil service”.

The site specified the nature of these aims:

Collecte des informations, appréciation des problèmes communs, identification des programmes régionaux et implication dans les activités d'études et de recherche sont nos principales missions..

Information gathering, understanding shared problems, identification of regional programmes and involvement in studies and research are our principal missions..

Some people believe this sharing of experiences to be essential. Wise Doh, a Ghanian student at the ENA explained [fr]:

 Je dois aider mon pays avec des méthodes françaises pour qu’il soit moins isolé au sein de la Cedeao [Communauté économique des États de l’Afrique de l’Ouest].  Nous sommes entourés d’anciennes colonies françaises, le Burkina, la Côte d’Ivoire, le Togo. Mais, du fait de notre identité anglo-saxonne, nous ne pesons pas assez.

I must help my country using the French methods to make it less isolated within the Cedeao (Economic Community of West African States). We are surrounded by ex French colonies: Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Togo. But, because of our Anglo Saxon identity, we don't have enough influence [in the region].

Difficulties encountered during public administration training

Each class has an average of 100 graduates, with all levels lumped together. At the start of the 2012 school year, there were only 82 admissions out of 10,262 candidates [fr], as highlighted by the ENA in Mali. However, these figures mask the general decline in the number of civil servants, with many having left the service over the past few decades. A decline reinforced by liberal movements who have criticised the invasive role of the state and the expenses linked to its activities. Following successive budgetary cuts, civil service jobs have lost their shine in contrast with the professions, engineering or business management, jobs which are more conducive to staff fulfillment.

In an instructive exposé on the challenges for public administration training institutions in Africa, Professor Jacques Mariel Nzouankeu of Senegal underlined that [fr]:

Le déclin n’est pas uniquement dû à un contexte économique hostile (chocs pétroliers de 71 et 79, programme d’ajustement structurels des années 80), mais également un manque de vision et d’agilité des autorités nationales face aux nouveaux besoins d’un monde moins pyramidal, plus rapide et plus intégré.  Ainsi, l’enseignement de culture générale destiné à renforcer la vision politique et la faculté d’encadrement des hauts fonctionnaires fut délaissé au profit de l’enseignement économique, jugé plus adapté aux défis posés par les récessions. On forme alors des agents économiques, plus que des acteurs de développement.

The decline is not solely due to a hostile economic climate (the oil crises of ‘71 and ‘79, the structural adjustment programme of the 1980's), but also to a lack of vision and agility of the national authorities when faced with the new requirements of a world with a less pyramidal structure, speedier and better integrated. Regarding this, the general training designed to strengthen political vision and the training of senior civil servants was neglected in favour of economic training, considered better adapted to the challenges posed by recession. Therefore school ended up training economic experts instead of   development professionals.

According to him, another error was that:

les autorités n’ont pas prêté grand intérêt aux nouvelles structures des « Bureau Organisation Méthodes » (BOM), dont les méthodes héritées du management public américain auraient été plus adaptées aux réformes administratives à venir.

the authorities have not shown much interest in the new structures of the “Office Organisation Methods”, the methods inherited from American public management should have been better adapted to the administrative reforms to come.

The dominant model of today remains that of the French ENA and many of the most ambitious Francophone African students apply for the annual entry examination at the Strasbourg based institute. However, this option is only available for a limited number of African students. From 1949 to 2008,  747 African students from 32 pays were accepted by the ENA [fr], which works out at just under 13 students per year. The representation of Sub-Saharan countries is even worse, with 56 students from Cameroon and about thirty for Senegal and Mauritania over the same period. The French ENAs, training the elite, benefit from special means compared with their African counterparts. In 2011, the French ENAs had an operational budget of 423 million Euros [fr], 85% subsidized by the state.

The challenge for the African ENAs is considerable. They must teach efficiency by example and merge schools by speciality to achieve better economies of scale at inter-regional level. They must introduce strategic management tools in the programmes, linking to theory by training in a real environment. They must do all of this with reduced means of financing.
The difficulties do not stop there. The quality of public administration training is a necessary for development but is not enough to guarantee a successful one. Other factors must be in play: peer pressure, reaching critical mass for well trained civil servants, a dynamic dialogue with citizens and, most of all, an unwavering political will at the highest reaches of government. All of these are requirements for development that cannot just be taught at any ENA courses.


August 22 2012

Benin: Fear and Loathing as State of Emergency is Declared

Justin Yarga reacts [fr] to the statement issued by the government of Benin on  alleged large-scale terrorist plots and planned national strikes [fr] to destabilize the country.  A state of emergency has been declared [fr] but many wonder whether such measures are justified.

May 02 2012

Africa: Calls for Transparency Over Marked Increase in Land Deals

The UK Guardian newspaper's Global Development blog reports that an international coalition of researchers and NGOs has released the world's largest public database of international land deals. This marks an important milestone in highlighting a developmental issue that has received little attention in the international news cycle.

The report states that almost 5% of Africa's agricultural land has been bought or leased by investors since 2000, and emphasizes the fact that this is not a new issue, yet points out that the number of such land deals has increased tremendously in the past five years.

Many observers are increasingly worried that these land deals usually take place in the world's poorest countries and that they impact its most vulnerable population, the farmers. The benefits seldom go to the general population, partially because of a lack of transparency in the proceedings of the transactions.

An additional report by Global Witness, entitled Dealing with Disclosure, emphasizes the dire need for transparency in the making of land deals.

World's poorest nations targeted 

The Global Witness report lists that 754 land deals have been identified, involving the majority of African countries for about 56.2 million hectares.

Target countries of land deals from the Land Matrix Project

Target countries of land deals from the Land Matrix Project

The nations targeted are usually some of the poorest in the world. The countries with the most deals in place are Mozambique (92 deals), Ethiopia (83), Tanzania (58) and Madagascar (39). Some of those deals have made headlines because they were conducted to ensure control over food imports, when the targeted regions faced major food crises.

The NGO GRAIN has already explained in detail the gist of their concerns in an extensive report released in 2008:

Today’s food and financial crises have, in tandem, triggered a new global land grab. On the one hand, “food insecure” governments that rely on imports to feed their people are snatching up vast areas of farmland abroad for their own offshore food production. On the other hand, food corporations and private investors, hungry for profits in the midst of the deepening financial crisis, see investment in foreign farmland as an important new source of revenue. As a result, fertile agricultural land is becoming increasingly privatised and concentrated. If left unchecked, this global land grab could spell the end of small-scale farming, and rural livelihoods, in numerous places around the world.

In Malawi, land deals have grown increasingly prevalent to the detriment of the local farmers. A report from Bangula explains the challenges faced by Malawian farmers, Dorothy Dyton and her family:

Like most smallholder farmers in Malawi, they did not have a title deed for the land Dyton was born on, and in 2009 she and about 2,000 other subsistence farmers from the area were informed by their local chief that the land had been sold and they could no longer cultivate there. […] Since that time, said Dyton, “life has been very hard on us.” With a game reserve on one side of the community and the Shire river and Mozambique border on the other, there is no other available land for them to farm and the family now ekes out a living selling firewood they gather from the nearby forest.

Land construction in Madagascar. Photo by Foko Madagascar, used with the author's authorization

Land construction in Madagascar. Photo by Foko Madagascar, used with the author's authorization

Farmers in Madagascar share similar concerns because they do not own the rights to the land they farm and an effective land reform is yet to be implemented. The Malagasy association Terres Malgaches has been at the forefront of land protection for the local population. They report that [fr]:

 Les familles malgaches ne possèdent pas de document foncier pour sécuriser leurs terres contre les accaparements de toutes sortes. En effet, depuis la colonisation, l’obtention de titres fonciers auprès de l’un des 33 services des domaines d’un pays de 589 000 km2 nécessite 24 étapes, 6 ans en moyenne et jusqu’à 500 dollars US. (..) .  Face aux convoitises et accaparements dont les terres malgaches font l’objet actuellement, seule la possession d’un titre ou d’un certificat foncier, seuls documents juridiques reconnus, permet d’entreprendre des actions en justice en cas de conflit.

Malagasy families do not usually own an estate property document that enable them to secure their lands against land grab. In fact, since colonial times, one has needed about 24 steps, 6 years and up to 500 US dollars to get such documents. There are merely around 33 agencies in the country that deliver such documents for a country that is 589,000 kilometres square […] In the face of the increasing land grabs that Malagasy land is currently at risk of, this certificate is the only document that can trigger legal action in case of conflict.

The association also reports on the practices of a mining company Sheritt, in Ambatovy, which have created a buzz in the local blogosphere because of environmental concerns for the local population and business malpractices (via MiningWatch Canada):

Sherritt International’s Ambatovy project in eastern Madagascar – costing $5.5 billion to build and scheduled to begin full production this month – will comprise a number of open pit mines (..) it will close in 29 years. There are already many concerns about the mine from the thousands of local people near the facilities. They say that their fields are destroyed ; the water is dirty ; the fish in the river are dead and there have been landslides near their village. During testing of the new plant, there have been at least four separate leaks of sulphur dioxide from the hydro-metallurgical facility which villagers say have killed at least two adults and two babies and sickened at least 50 more people. In January, laid-off construction workers from Ambatovy began a wildcat strike, arguing that the jobs they were promised when construction ended have not materialized. The people in nearby cities like Moramanga say that their daughters are increasingly engaged in prostitution.

Video of a worker's testimony in Ambatovy.

Solutions for the local population? 

The plight of Madagascar's farmers' plight may be slowly changing though. Land reform discussions are in progress, according to this report:

 According to a paper presented at the 2011 International Conference on Global Land Grabbing, about 50 agribusiness projects were announced between 2005 and 2010, about 30 of which are still active, covering a total land area of about 150,000 ha. Projects include plantations to produce sugar cane, cassava and jatropha-based biofuel.
To prevent the negative impacts of land grabbing, (The NGO) EFA has set up social models for investors, with funding from the UN Development Programme (UNDP). The goal is to help investors negotiate with the people in the area where they want to implement projects, as a way to prevent future problems.

Joachim Von Braun, formerly  of the International Food Policy Insitute (IFPRI), wrote the following regarding land deals:

 It is in the long-run interest of investors, host governments, and the local people involved to ensure that these arrangements are properly negotiated, practices are sustainable, and benefits are shared. Because of the transnational nature of such arrangements, no single institutional mechanism will ensure this outcome. Rather, a combination of international law, government policies, and the involvement of civil society, the media, and local communities is needed to minimize the threats and realize the benefits.

The need for transparency in land deals is further emphasized by  Megan MacInnes, Senior Land Campaigner at Global Witness:

Far too many people are being kept in the dark about massive land deals that could destroy their homes and livelihoods. That this needs to change is well understood, but how to change it is not. For the first time, this report (Dealing with Disclosure)  sets out in detail what tools governments, companies and citizens can harness to remove the shroud of secrecy that surrounds land acquisition. It takes lessons from efforts to improve transparency in other sectors and looks at what is likely to work for land. Companies should have to prove they are doing no harm, rather than communities with little information or power having to prove that a land deal is negatively affecting them.


April 09 2012

One Day on Earth: Worldwide Collaborative Music Video Released

A new music video has been released in preparation for the worldwide screening of the Global Collaborative film One Day on Earth, which will take place in locations all around the planet on Earth Day (22 April, 2012).  The video features musicians, poets and dancers captured on film all during the same 24 hour period in 10 October, 2012, artfully recut and remixed by Cut Chemist.


The collaborative film One Day on Earth was filmed all on the same day, October 10, 2010, with more than 3,000 hours of footage sent in from all corners of the world, showcasing the amazing diversity, conflict, tragedy, and triumph that occurs in one day. The Global Screening will take place on Earth Day (April 22, 2012) in every country of the world, with the assistance of World Heritage Sites and the United Nations.

The music video includes footage from India, Papua New Guinea, Benin, Burkina Faso, USA, China, North Korea, Mongolia, Kenya, Afghanistan, Jamaica, Spain, Taiwan and many other locations.

You can read more about the upcoming screening on our previous post One Day on Earth: Global Screening of Worldwide Collaborative Film and you can sign up for a screening in your city or town on the One Day on Earth site.

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